Cancer Survivor Numbers On The Rise
March 27, 2013

Cancer Survivor Numbers On The Rise

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

While once considered a death sentence to many, cancer survival is on the rise. The increase is, in part, due to an aging population. But it is also thanks to advances in early detection and treatment. As a result, more people will survive cancer.

On Wednesday, the American Association for Cancer Research reported the number of cancer survivors is expected to increase by 31 percent to 18 million by 2022. Currently there are some 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States.

These are the findings of the just released second Annual Report on Cancer Survivorship in the United States, which was released in advance of the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 that will be held in Washington, D.C. from April 6 to 10. The findings were published in the AACR´s journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

“The increase in the number of survivors will be due primarily to an aging of the population. By 2020, we expect that two-thirds of cancer survivors are going to be age 65 or older,” said Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in a statement.

This research also indicates a couple of key factors as well, including survival is not uniform across all cancer types.

The study, which utilized two government-funded databases including the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program and the US Census Bureau´s population projections, found women with breast cancer will make up about 22 percent of cancer survivors in the next decade, whilst men with prostate cancer will make-up another 20 percent. Patients with lung cancer, which is the second most common cancer in terms of diagnosis, only represent about three percent of survivors.

“For patients with prostate cancer, we have a nearly 100 percent five-year survival rate, and breast cancer has made tremendous strides as well, with five-year survival rising from 75 percent in 1975 to almost 89 percent in 2012,” added Rowland. “However, we clearly need to have better diagnostic tools and better treatments for lung cancer.”

This increase in cancer survivors could present some new challenges for the healthcare community, as those patients diagnosed with cancer will likely have comorbid conditions that will need to be managed. It is also expected cancer survivors tend to have twice the annual medical costs patients without cancer have, in part because of the need for routine monitoring for recurring tumors, as well as side effects from the treatments they receive.

The study found healthcare costs in the first year after a cancer was diagnosed were typically higher than the annual costs for survivors who are not in their last year of life. Annual healthcare costs of those who are more than one year post-diagnosis are double that of the general population, which could suggest the economic burden of cancer could be both considerable and persistent.

“How to ensure that these patients lead not only long lives, but healthy and productive lives, will be a vital challenge to all of us,” said Rowland.